This Week in Lincoln County – August 14, 2018

A few items of interest that the Commission has been working on are below.
• The Commission recently received a Court Judgement from the Eastern District of Missouri in the case of Argonaut Great Central Insurance Company v. Lincoln County, Missouri, et al. The Court found that Argonaut has a duty to defend the County Defendants for the claims raised in the Russell Scott Faria v. Sergeant Ryan J. McCarrick, et al case.
• As we talked about last week, the budgeting process has begun, and the early focus, as it is every year, is the 911 Dispatch Center budget. Based on the recommendation of the 911 Advisory Board, letters will be sent to all agencies that use the Dispatch Center’s services outlining their respective costs for the services in 2019. All agencies will be invited to attend the September 911 Advisory Board meeting to discuss the proposed charges. It is important to note that the services are provided to each agency at cost minus a credit for a proportional share of the land line revenues. Other than the land line revenues to fund the 911 Emergency call taking, no entity, including the County, has a source of revenue specifically dedicated to the cost of dispatch and warrant processing. Offering competitive wages and keeping qualified employees remains a challenge as the greener pastures in other areas often draw away employees that we have paid to train. This has been, and will continue to be, a challenge, but the bottom line is to make the funding as equitable as possible and to not lose sight of the focus of our efforts, which is the safety of the residents.
• We have broken through the last remaining obstacles on a few bridge projects, and will soon open bids to construct a replacement bridge on Snyder Rd. and build a new bridge on Taylor School Rd. in place of an old creek crossing. The bridge on Snyder Rd. is sitting on an unstable pile of sand, and the crossing on Taylor School, as we have discussed before, is a dangerous situation that has worsened as the population in that area has increased. Both are worthwhile projects, and Snyder Rd. construction will be funded at no additional cost to the County through the Federal Bridge Program (BRO) while the Taylor School project will be 80% funded by a FEMA Hazard Mitigation grant. The end result will be two worthwhile enhancements to our system at minimal cost to the County.

That’s all we have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

The Commissioners

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This Week in Lincoln County – August 7, 2018

A few items of interest that the Commission has been working on are below.• Assessed valuations are in and this year the overall number for the county is $857,485,260 which represents positive growth of 3.6% from last year. While some of this growth is due to re-assessment (which means property is gaining in value which is positive), the change due to new construction accounts for over half, 51.4%, of the overall growth. Furthermore the growth attributable to new construction has increased by 27% over 2017’s numbers.
• As we have discussed in previous columns, the State of Missouri continues to lag behind in its reimbursements to counties for the housing of State prisoners. It is important to keep in mind that the board rate for reimbursement stands at $22.58 per day, per inmate which represents about ½ of what it costs Sheriff Cottle to house these prisoners. As of October 31, 2017, Lincoln County was owed $97,236.44 for prisoner boarding, and while the State has since taken steps to improve the payment of these bills, the balance due to the County has risen to $259,979.94 as of June 30, 2018. In private industry, we would turn such a “customer” over to collections and stop doing business with them. Unfortunately, in government we do not have that luxury and will continue to make the ends meet. With Sheriff Cottle and his staff, we have the right people in place to keep the operation financially stable.
• While December seems like it is a long time away, we have begun preparing for the 2019 budget. If current conditions continue through the end of the year, we plan to retire most if not all of the little short-term debt we are carrying and designate the remaining surplus to the appropriate reserve. In addition to the systematic savings plan we recently implemented with the Sheriff, the Commission will soon be expanding this philosophy to further build up reserves in General Revenue with a focus on long-term building maintenance and economic development projects. The overarching theory is to use times of strong revenues to make thorough preparations for that “rainy day” when income slows down.

That’s all we have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

The Commissioners

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This Week in Lincoln County – July 31, 2018

A few items of interest that the Commission has been working on are below.
• This week, Treasurer Brenda O’Brien presented the Commission with the semi-annual Treasurer’s Report which is a snapshot of the County’s financial performance during the first 6 months of 2018. Revenues at the halfway point are at 50.02% of projections, and expenditures are at 38.04%, so we are on pace to accomplish what we set out to accomplish AND put a little money back in the reserves. Of particular note is the balance in the Road and Bridge Fund. You may recall that in past articles we have discussed that a healthy reserve balance in the fund is about $1 million, but as of June 30, 2018, the reserve balance is $3,897,719.96! We will spend some of that balance down on projects before the end of the year, but we are on track to again finish the year in a strong financial position in Road and Bridge. The County as a whole is on track to have another good year financially.
• Permitting and easement acquisition activities continue on a number of projects. Of course, we have to do an Indiana bat study for the bridge project on Taylor School Rd. to make sure we aren’t upsetting any nesting habitat. The bat habitat study is just one of many regulations that we are required to adhere to in order to get a project off the ground. The creek crossing on Taylor School Rd. has been the site of a number of high water rescues, including one some years ago when a young mother was trapped in her vehicle with two small children. Once this project is complete, the dangerous crossing will be replaced with a safe, well-built bridge which will be 80% funded by a Hazard Mitigation Grant through FEMA. While there are regulations with which we have to comply that seem burdensome at times, the effort is worthwhile as the net result is a safer travel route for the taxpayers of Lincoln County.
• Speaking of regulations, our status as a 2nd Class county brings with it a number of statutory regulations regarding procurement, bid solicitation, purchases, etc. Each formal bid packet that the County prepares is crafted on the basis of these statutes along with the technical requirements for the particular product or service being solicited. In addition to submitting the bid price, the vendor must also comply with all requirements in the packet in order to be considered. Unfortunately, bids that do not meet the requirements must be rejected. A recent example is our Aggregate Sealcoat bid packet, wherein a vendor submitted a bid of $800,200 which was significantly lower than the second bid of $1,496,200. While that seems like an attractive bid on paper, the rest of the packet was missing a number of required documents, not the least of which was the McCleod Mix Design which is the “formula” that outlines the methodology they intend to use to complete the job. The low bid vendor also contacted our Project Management office and shared that they had made a calculation error by not factoring in all necessary information to submit an accurate bid. Fortunately, we discovered all of this prior to making the award, and ultimately the bid was rejected.
• That’s all we have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

The Commissioners

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This Week in Lincoln County – July 24, 2018

As the construction season continues, we would just like to remind everyone to exercise caution when traveling around road workers, be they City, County, or State. Believe me, these hard working men and women don’t want to impede traffic any more than you want to be impeded, but they have a job to do. Please look out when traveling in a work zone.

A few items of interest that the Commission has been working on are below.
• This week we had the pleasure of meeting with the Hermsmeyers from the Blackmore Rd. area of Lincoln County. The conversation focused on widening and improving roads, and it was beneficial for the Commission to have an open, face-to-face dialogue in which both parties were able to clear up some misunderstandings and misconceptions. The most important takeaway from our meeting with these gentlemen is that there is a widespread belief that the County has wide road easements. We in fact do not, and if you live on a narrow winding road, it is probably because the County does not have permission from the adjoining landowners to trim the trees back and make the road a safe width. Before a road can even be considered for conversion from gravel to asphalt, it must first have drainage and safety issues addressed and meetings like we had today with the Hermsmeyers are a great first step in the process to obtain the necessary easements to do what needs to be done. County crews are working diligently to improve roads wherever we have permission, and as a Commission we are committed to supporting these efforts. If you have an opportunity to travel Creech School Rd., it is an example of the type of improvements that can be accomplished when we have landowner cooperation. A narrow, winding, poorly drained gravel road has undergone monumental changes which will ultimately lead to this road being hard surfaced. We are also preparing to undertake the same type of work on Cuivre Ford Rd. as soon as the crews can get there. Thanks again to the Hermsmeyers for a productive conversation.
• Did you know that Lincoln County is only the 13th county in the state to qualify for the Community Rating System (CRS) through the National Flood Insurance Program? Thanks to our Class 7 rating, all policy holders in unincorporated Lincoln County floodplains will see a 15% decrease in their premium for their 2018 renewal which amounts to an average savings of $123 per year. Congratulations are in order for the Floodplain Management Office for their diligent effort in making this a reality.
• Construction will soon be underway on the renovations at the Courthouse on Main St. In addition to repairing some soffit damage, the cupola will have the vinyl siding removed and will be redone with a more historically accurate material. The work will be performed by Martin General Contractors of Eolia, Missouri, and will also include repairs to the front porch columns. The front porch project has been a long time in the making as the columns and bases date back to the original building construction in 1870 and must be handled with extreme care. The project will continue through this fall, with completion expected just in time for our Bi-Centennial celebration in December.
That’s all we have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

The Commissioners

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This Week in Lincoln County – July 17, 2018

Economic Development is always a hot topic, particularly during periods of growth like we are currently experiencing. This week we want to hit on just a few of the “measuring sticks” used to assess performance in the development arena.
• The first measurement of economic growth that we will consider is median household income (MHI). According to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERC), in 2016 Lincoln County was ranked #10 in the sate of Missouri with an MHI of $56,833, which places us above other notable counties such as Boone (Columbia), Greene (Springfield), and Franklin (Washington).
• Another method of gauging economic development success is the growth in the commercial tax base. Lincoln County hired its first full-time Economic Development Director in September 2013, and since then the value of the commercial tax base has increased from $78,895,745 in 2013 to $95,931,641 in 2017; a growth rate of 21.6%. Not a bad 5-year run, but the expectations are even higher moving forward.
• Yet another measurement of the performance of economic development efforts is capital investment and job creation. If we just focus on the 5-year period since we went “all in” on economic development and narrow our focus to only the projects that have participated in the county’s Enhanced Enterprise Zone (EEZ), a tax incentive program that encourages new or expanded business facilities and job creation, since 2013, the numbers are still impressive. With a total Capital Investment of $37,548,370.28 and the creation of 796 jobs, the results are favorable from this perspective as well.
• To tie all of this together, let’s keep our focus on just the EEZ activity since 2013 to determine how much return the taxpayers are getting for an investment in a $150,000 annual Economic Development budget. Using the County’s average wage of $17.93/hour as determined by the State Department of Economic Development, the 796 jobs equate to an annual income of $29,686,342. This income coupled with an average annual capital investment of $7,509,674 created a grand total of $37,196,016 added to the economy in 2017.…just from the efforts relative to the EEZ. Realistically speaking, we know that no single entity or individual can lay claim to all of these results, but let’s give Larry Tucker and his staff credit for a conservative 1% of these results or income of $371,960 annually versus an annual expenditure of $150,000. Regardless of the investment, that’s not a bad return at all.
• If we were to factor in the economic benefits resulting from all of our Economic Development efforts it would be even more apparent that the County is experiencing strong growth far and above our EEZ efforts and taxpayers are truly getting “bang” for their buck through Economic Development.
• For a more in depth look into Economic Development, we encourage everyone to stop by the 3rd floor of the old Courthouse and visit with Larry Tucker and his assistant Julie Rodgers.

That’s all we have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

The Commissioners

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This Week in Lincoln County – July 10, 2018

This and all previous weekly reports are available on the County website at www.lcmo.us. Simply click on the “News” tab to catch up on what has been happening in Lincoln County from the Commission’s perspective.

A few items of interest that the Commission has been working on are below.
• The Commission met with Sheriff Cottle and approved the first, hopefully, of many deposits pursuant to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Sheriff and the Commission. This MOU prescribes a long-term approach to bolstering the County’s financial footing through systematic deposits of surplus Federal prisoner revenues into Law Enforcement reserves, the Jail Emergency Fund, and the Retirement Investment fund. Saving for a “rainy day” is always important, especially during periods of strong revenues. Past history tells us that the economy will eventually correct itself, and through a cooperative effort with Sheriff Cottle we are prepared. The Commission’s next step is to apply this systematic savings approach to Road and Bridge revenues to maintain reserves and continue to build an investment fund which will allow the County to cooperatively work with other entities such as MODOT and local cities on cost-share projects. Until MODOT solves its funding woes, it will be increasingly important for cities and counties to work jointly on projects such as outer roads on Highway 61 and new overpasses along that corridor.
• Commercial growth continues, especially north of Troy, and residential construction is widespread at the moment. With this growth spurring the economy, job opportunities abound and our Road and Bridge Department is no exception. We are currently looking to add to our team with entry-level positions and drivers with a Class B CDL with air brakes. Call Jean at (636)528-7112 or stop by the office at 219 Highway H in Troy.
• Transitioning to 1st class county status continues to be a topic of discussion, particularly the requirement set forth in RSMo 137.556 wherein the County will transfer 25% of the Road and Bridge property tax levied within municipal limits to those municipalities for the repair of streets, bridges, sidewalks, etc. This transfer will result in a modest decrease in property tax revenue for the County; however, the net result will be positive for everyone as not only will the roads be in better shape but the local economy will also do well with construction dollars flowing back into the community through local vendors and county residents who work for our outside contractors. Overall, this situation is a win for the community.

That’s all we have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

The Commissioners

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This Week in Lincoln County – July 3, 2018

Lincoln County, particularly the Troy area, mourns the loss of Betty Hunter and Bob Dunard. Community service is an activity that brings few material rewards, but these two individuals selflessly served their community for many years and will be missed.

A few items of interest that the Commission has been working on are below.
• The original courthouse building on Main St. dates back to 1870, and in conjunction with our Bicentennial celebration for the County this year, we are making some improvements to this beautiful old structure. Please be forewarned that the front of the building will be a “work in progress” for several months leading up to the celebration in December. In addition to making repairs to the original cast iron columns, we are also working on the soffits and the cupola. The highlight of the cupola work is the removal of the vinyl siding, which will be replaced with approved material to create a more historically accurate look. Please make plans to come by in December to see all of the improvements.
• Some weeks ago we discussed the conversion of gravel roads to a hard surface, which included a list of the roads to be converted. That process is going full throttle at the moment, and everything is moving forward as planned. We were in fact able to get a 1.25-mile section of Fairview Church Rd. prepped and ready, so it has been added to the list and will be done this year as well. Asphalt is a MESSY product, but the mess is short-lived in comparison to the limestone dust that plagues gravel roads during the dry months year after year. Our plan is to repeat this process every year through 2022 at which point more than half of County maintained roads will have an asphalt surface. In 2022 the Commission will have to assess the situation, but we see no reason why this process cannot continue into the future. The funding for these projects comes from money SAVED for this purpose, over and above our reserve balances and maintenance program.
• As we move into the second half of our fiscal year, revenues are right on pace for the most part. After a slow start, sales taxes have rebounded and are only 2.5% off last year’s pace and closing the gap slowly but surely. Elected officials and department heads are doing a good job in keeping expenditures at and, in most cases, under budget. It is this commitment to fiscal responsibility that has enabled the County to take care of business and continue to maintain a healthy reserve balance. While the reserves are strong, there is always room for improvement, and we continue to look for ways to save money and bolster our financial foundation.

That’s all we have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

The Commissioners

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This Week in Lincoln County – June 26, 2018

In the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? one of the characters hears thunder in the distance and simply says, “Sweet summer rain.” I am currently splitting time between the keyboard at the kitchen table and the deck, where I am hoping to enjoy some of that “sweet summer rain” instead of a violent monsoon style rain.

A few items of interest that the Commission has been working on are below.
• Preparations for the hard surfacing of roads is in full swing and the priming phase will begin later this week as the aforementioned rain allows. For the next several weeks, the County will see a noticeable increase in construction traffic relative to this operation. I want to again remind folks to take note of signage and flaggers while also paying particular attention to posted speed limits in construction zones. In addition to the immediate savings we will recognize by reducing our gravel expenses, the conversion of gravel roads to a hard surface will eventually allow us to eliminate at least one grader territory. At about $275,000 a pop to purchase a new motor grader, the long-term savings will be significant as well.
• The Commission continues to explore the possibility of re-classification from 2nd to 1st class. The statutory requirements are numerous, and while the change is inevitable, we want to make sure that we are fully prepared and fully aware of all of the changes that accompany the transition before we make the decision. One particular facet of the change relates to the disbursal of Road and Bridge Property Tax and municipalities. Under 1st class statutes, 25% of the tax collected within corporate limits will be disbursed to the municipality for the maintenance of roads within those limits. While this means a decrease in the funds available to the County, I see this as a positive change overall, as it will give the municipalities a welcome boost in their road budget which benefits everyone. We are in the process of estimating these amounts to gauge the expected impact of that change when it occurs.
• There has been some discussion lately regarding the accounting method employed by the County. While the current cash method complies with the laws of the State of Missouri, the Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) prescribes the use of the accrual method. In conversations with counties of similar size, the modified accrual method seems to be the most popular choice. Like the decision to move from 2nd to 1st class, the change in accounting method will require preparation and research to make sure that the transition is as seamless as possible. However, the ultimate determination of the accounting method rests with the County Auditor per RSMo 55.150. The statute goes so far as to state that the Auditor has the authority to make such choices WITHOUT the approval of the Commission. This is another example of the checks and balances that are masterfully interwoven throughout Missouri statutes.

That’s all I have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

Dan Colbert
Presiding Commissioner

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This Week in Lincoln County – June 19, 2018

I have survived my daughter’s wedding and my sons’ graduation. Once I get the election and a graduation/birthday party behind me, perhaps I will be able to relax a bit this summer.

A few items of interest that the Commission has been working on are below.
• Taxes. The mere mention of the word puts people (myself included) on edge. This week I want to focus on some tax related questions and hopefully clear up some misconceptions that exist.
• Some weeks ago, I discussed an issue that was being discussed in the State legislature concerning out-of-state purchases and the use tax. The first clarification I want to make is that a use tax is a tax on purchases made outside of one’s state of residence and NOT a tax on the amount of internet service you use. Missouri currently collects a use tax at the rate of 4.225% on out of state purchases, but Lincoln County does not currently have a use tax in place, nor does the Commission have any plans to put this issue on the ballot.
• As stated recently, the Commission voted not to pursue the proposed sales tax to fund 911 Dispatch services throughout the county. While Dispatch funding continues to be a challenge due to decreasing land line numbers, the discussion concerning the proposed tax made it very clear that there was significant opposition to the issue. As caretakers of tax dollars, we have been given a mandate to live within our means and that is exactly what we will continue to do.
• Just a reminder that on April 1, 2019, the Debt Service Tax portion of the Hospital bonds will be retired and the tax will no longer be collected. You will see it on your bill later this year, but it will not be levied in 2019. In an era where new taxes seem to be a frequent topic of conversation, we are bucking that trend and ELIMINATING taxes!
• I would like to share a few words about property tax rates in Lincoln County. Keep in mind that the County sets the rate for the General Revenue (GR) and Road and Bridge (RB) property taxes. All other tax rates are set by the school board, fire board, etc. Our goal has been to keep the levy as low as possible as low property tax rates are a key factor driving the nearly 30% growth in both our residential and commercial tax bases since 2011. Both the GR and RB levies are LOWER now than they were in 2011. General Revenue has experienced a modest decline from .1950 per $100 assessed evaluation in 2011 to .1900 in 2017, while the Road and Bridge rate has declined from .2653 per $100 assessed evaluation to .2421 during that same time period. Keep in mind that, while the rates have dropped slightly, real property values continue to rise with the market which at the moment is very strong. We have to keep the lights on and continue to do business, but we continue to work to keep these rates at or near their current levels without compromising service.

That’s all I have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

Dan Colbert
Presiding Commissioner

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This Week in Lincoln County – June 12, 2018

A few items of interest that the Commission has been working on are below.
• I am sure that everyone who travels Main St. in Troy is aware that the road has been closed for the replacement of the bridge at the intersection of Main and Annie Ave. Having been in the unenviable position of having to close a road for bridge replacement on a number of occasions, I would ask everyone to please be patient throughout the process. Trust me, Mayor Cross and the Board of Aldermen don’t want the closure to last any longer than it has to and are doing everything they can to expedite the process. We can’t lose sight of the fact that PUBLIC SAFETY is the driving force behind this project, and I hope we can all agree that a temporary inconvenience to ensure everyone’s safety is a worthwhile endeavor.
• Preliminary work has been completed and Phase 1 of our 5-year plan to convert gravel roads to hard surface roads is underway. The roads that are included in this year’s program are below along with the length to be surfaced.
o North Chantilly Rd. (.68 miles)
o Blackmore Rd. (.78 miles)
o South Chantilly Rd. (1.3 miles from Brevator to Ethington)
o Kamp Rd. (.51 miles)
o Zoar Church Rd. (1.99 miles)
o Giles Rd. (.65 miles from Highway 47 to Trackside Farm)
o Trackside Farm Rd. (.49 miles)
o Witte Rd. (.76 miles)
o South Moore School Rd. (2.23 miles)
o Linns Mill Rd. (1.6 miles)
o Himmel Rd. (.41 miles)
o Bethel Rd. (1.35 miles from Prairie Rd. north)
o Prairie Rd. (4.58 miles)
o Jacks Rd. (.99 miles)
• We are currently at 150 miles of hard surface road and 330 miles of gravel. At the conclusion of the 5-year plan those figures should be 250 and 230 miles respectively. Replacing rough, dusty gravel roads with a smooth, hard surface not only makes life better for those living on these roads, but it also makes Lincoln County more desirable to potential residents and developers.
• For those of you who travel Hampel Rd. south of Cappel Elementary, you will be delighted to hear that we have entered into an agreement with McClure Engineering to design and oversee the re-decking of the bridge just north of Adelhardt Rd. The project will require a closure, which we hope to execute as soon as school gets out in 2019. In the interim, we will place temporary patch material to get us through to construction.

That’s all I have time for now. As always, call, e-mail or stop by the Courthouse if you have questions. Until next week…

Dan Colbert
Presiding Commissioner

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